As some of you know, this year Vito and I decided to return to beautiful Naples for our holidays to enjoy a week of art, food and relaxation. As always, I had searched and planned where and what to do in advance. I have to confess that after a year and a half of food blogging, I'm finding it ever more difficult to find places that really surprise me, so I was looking for a truly special experience, and that's when I happened to read about Baccalaria, a quality restaurant specialised in baccalà (cod).
Located in Piazzetta di Porto, five minutes from the more crowded Via Toledo, I understood Baccalaria was my sort of place the moment I saw it. The lovely tables outside, the bright shop and the two areas with indoor seating immediately impressed me for the elegant and sought-after table sets, the beautiful dishes and cutlery (which would be simply perfect for my food photos) and the kindness of Salvatore, the owner, and his staff, so we nosed around and booked for lunch the following the day.
Due to the unbearable heat, we opted to sit inside. Baccalaria is a historical restaurant and attention to detail and tradition can be perceived at every corner. We were incredibly curious because in Venice too we have a long tradition of baccalà making (although, as already mentioned in my Venetian Baccalà: a history and a recipe post, in Venice when we say baccalà we are actually referring to stockfish) and wanted to learn more about the differences.
Salvatore's knowledge and passion passed through also thanks to his notable collection of books on the topic, of which I bought the following day Baccalajuoli, published by the small local publishing house Colonnese Editore, with a shop in Via San Pietro in Majella in the Spaccanapoli area (a must stop for book worms and rare and old books lovers). In fact, I think I should repeat myself and start from the beginning. Both baccalà and stockfish are made with cod, but while baccalà is preserved under salt, stockfish comes exclusively from the Lofoten islands in Norway and is dried thanks to natural elements such as sun and wind, thus slightly more expensive and -in my opinion- of a superior quality. In addition to this, in Venice we use the top quality stockifish, which is called ragno (spider), left to dry for at least three months. At Baccalaria they serve both, so I suggest to try the two varieties and decide which you prefer!
We drank a glass of Catalanesca del Monte, while slowly leafing through the menu. The wine was a surprise too, fresh and fruity. We learned, in fact, that the grape Catalanesca was introduced in Naples by King Alfons I of Aragon in the 16th century and the vineyards are located all on volcanic soil, responsible for the straw yellow colour and delicate yet intense flavours.
The lunch menu is shorter and simpler than the dinner offer, but we were still finding it difficult to decide, as everything seemed so very inviting. To start we both chose raw baccalà: a carpaccio for Vito and a tartare for me. Simply wonderful. Of both dishes we couldn't help notice how well the fish had been de-salted and how meaty and soft it was. Vito's was delicious, served with radicchio, salad, green and black olives and sprinkled with parsley. Mine was superb. I don't know whether it was the crispy vegetables or the lemony condiment, but it was amazing.
Great start! As a main, we both chose something under the list named "The Classics" and switched to a red wine, precisely a Sannio Piedirosso Mustilli, a native grape from the region -precisely from the Ravello area- that gives a dry, round and slightly tannic wine.
Vito had Baccalà in Neapolitan style, while I had Mussillo in Sicilian style. Oh my gosh.... do you remember the most famous scene in the movie 'When Harry met Sally'?! Well, we behaved more or less in the same way, with the only difference we weren't faking, it was real!
Vito's dish was just amazing. The baccalà had been first fried, then slowly baked in the oven with tomato sauce, olives and capers. Definitely one of the tastiest dishes I've had in the last year. De-li-cious. With regard to my dish, I have to apologise but I'm not sure how to translate mussillo. It is the highest -and most tender- part of the cod's back and it was prepared with the same ingredients: tomato sauce, olives and capers. Although similar in looks, the flavours were quite distinct and we were both mouth-watering (although the one in Neapolitan style had that special extra touch).
Unaware of the gigantic portions, we had also asked for a side of boiled potatoes, dressed with lemon, olive oil and parsley.
Wow. What a meal. I was in heaven, but what made me really happy was to have finally re-experienced that very special enthusiasm I used to have at restaurants. A place run with passion, attention and love. We were very satisfied and skipped the dessert, but we tried two varieties of regional nocino, here called nucillo. Nocino is a liquor made with unripe walnuts, broken in 4 and covered with alcohol and sugar and left in a clear glass vase to dry under the sun for at least two months, then filtered and ... served! Excellent and quite alcoholic (about 50 degrees). Perfect ending to a perfect lunch experience. With regard to the price, we found it was very fair (35 each) for the type of setting, ingredients and service. Brilliant.
Personally, we enjoyed Baccalaria so much we might go back on Monday before returning to Venice. Anyway, to all those of you who are planning to visit Naples, this is a must stop and I highly recommend trying it! More on Naples soon (with tips for vegan and vegetarian travellers too), so stay tuned!
Baccalaria - website
Address: Piazzetta di Porto 4, 80134 Napoli (NA)
Phone: + 39 081 0120049